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Coronavirus: Behind closed doors is better than nothing


The organisers of the Olympics took a while to accept the inevitability of postponement, but have since sorted out the new dates pretty swiftly, delaying the event until almost exactly the same days in 2021 that it was due to occupy this year, straddling July and August. This gives the athletes some much-needed clarity. Postponing the Olympics is a major setback for them, but they can now make plans and organise themselves to be in peak shape on those dates. It hasn’t come without cost, because the rearranged Games clash with the world championships in athletics and swimming, which are the Olympics’ two headline sports. Now those events are looking for new dates. A price that had to be paid to solve a bigger issue.

The clear pathway that the Olympic world now has is something that, with less time to play with and a greater degree of desperation, club football is also seeking. As it watches the days goes by with no revenue coming in, it is fighting to finish the season by hook or by crook: in other words, by completing leagues behind closed doors if need be and, in the European competitions, turning to an express format that makes the quarter-finals single-legged ties and submerges the semis into a final-four event. UEFA, European football’s governing body, is doing everything within its power: it has already moved Euro 2020 to 2021, and has now also freed up June dates that were reserved for international friendlies.

A Copa del Rey final without fans would be a shame

A plan is being devised which, with any luck, will prove viable: a two-week pre-season in May, before the campaign is completed in June, July and, if necessary, some of August. Football behind closed doors is a prospect no-one relishes, but it’s better than nothing. What I’m less sure about, and I agree here with Spanish FA chief Luis Rubiales, is a Copa del Rey final without fans. I’d rather do it after the summer, as a kind of celebration of coming through all this. Either way, it all depends on when the virus actually subsides, and on what deals can be made on compressing 2020/21. FIFA will have to move its Club World Cup, national associations will have to cut down their domestic cups and the players will have to work through Christmas.

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